County Criminal Court: CRIMINAL LAW Ė Search and Seizure Ė Evidence - Even though the defendant testified that he did not give the police permission to enter his home, exigent circumstances of a recent gunshot, reports of shots being fired inside the house, and the possibility that those responsible were still inside the house provided justification for the police to enter the house. Ė Judgment and sentence affirmed. Slaughter v. State, No. CRC 04-27 APANO (Fla. 6th Cir. App. Ct. Dec. 7, 2004).

 

 

 

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA IN AND FOR PINELLAS COUNTY

 

 

NATHANIEL SLAUGHTER

 

††††††††††† Appellant,

 

Appeal No. CRC 04-00027 APANO

UCN522004AP000027XXXXCR

v.

 

STATE OF FLORIDA

 

††††††††††† Appellee.

___________________________/

 

 

Opinion filed _________________.

 

Appeal from a judgment and sentence

entered by the Pinellas County Court

County Judge Shawn Crane

 

C. Marie King, Esq.

Assistant State Attorney

 

Joy Goodyear, Esq.

Assistant Public Defender

 

ORDER AND OPINION

 

††††††††††† THIS MATTER is before the Court on Nathaniel Slaughterís appeal from a judgment and sentence entered by the Pinellas County Court. The defendant pleaded no contest to possession of marijuana charges, reserving his right to appeal the trial courtís denial of his motion to suppress. After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court affirms the judgment and sentence.

††††††††††† The defendant argues that the search of his home was improper, and that anything discovered as a result of the search should have been suppressed. The record reveals that approximately 1:00 A.M. the defendant was at home when he heard someone kick in his door. When he went to investigate he saw three men; these men then fired gunshots inside his house. The police were called, and they quickly arrived at the scene. One of the officers testified that when she arrived at the house she smelled gunpowder, which indicated to her that a gun had recently been fired. The officer testified that she had no idea where the suspects could be and thought they might be in the house. The police got the defendantís family out of the house, and to make sure the suspects were not still in the house, the police did a quick sweep of the premises. During the sweep the police saw the marijuana.

††††††††††† The defendant argues that both he and his girlfriend told the police before they did the sweep that the suspects had already gone. The police officer, however, testified that the defendant told her that he did not see the suspects leave and only assumed that they had left. The police officer also testified that the girlfriend did not mention where the suspects were at the time the police entered the house.

††††††††††† Although the defendant told the police that he believed the suspects were no longer inside the house, the police did not have to accept this statement. Under the circumstances they were entitled to make sure that the suspects were not in the house. The exigent circumstances of a recent gunshot, reports of shots being fired inside the house, the possibility that those responsible were still in the house, and the fact that both the defendant, his family and the police were in the yard provided justification for the police to enter the house to determine if the suspects were in fact still inside. Therefore, even if the defendant did not believe the sweep was necessary, the police were entitled to make the brief sweep because it was reasonable to ensure both their safety and the safety of the defendantís family. Under these exigent circumstances both entry to the house and the sweep were reasonable. Accordingly, the trial court was correct to deny the defendantís motion to suppress.

††††††††††† IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the judgment and sentence are affirmed.

††††††††††† DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida this _____ day of December, 2004.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ________________________

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† James R. Case

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Circuit Judge

 

 

 

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† _________________________

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Nancy Moate Ley

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Circuit Judge

 

 

 

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† _________________________

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† John A. Schaefer

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Circuit Judge

cc:†† State Attorney

 

††††††† Public Defender

 

†††††† Judge Crane